History is vital to identity - Sharples

  • Pita Sharples

Associate Education Minister Dr Pita Sharples says a knowledge of history is vital to identity, and all New Zealanders should learn the history of our country in schools.

Dr Sharples agrees that a lack of knowledge of New Zealand history and Maori perspectives is having damaging social effects. That view was stated recently by academics Peter Adds and Richard Manning, who said schools were ‘side-stepping' Maori history courses.

"There is no requirement to teach New Zealand history in schools, and research shows that most schools are ‘opting out' of teaching the courses that are available," said Dr Sharples. "The result is that our students leave school ill-equipped to understand and participate in some of the key issues of their time, that will affect them most directly," he said.

"For example, the Government's negotiates Treaty settlements based on the facts of history. If everyone knew what had happened, I know there would be support for the settlements, and easier reconciliation between the parties.

"The Treaty itself has such a positive role to play in our society. There are lots of Waitangi Tribunal reports on what the Treaty means for us today. If that knowledge got out more widely - we could be really proud of our nation and the partnership it is founded on.

"And Maori students in particular need subjects that are interesting, relevant to them and taught well, to help engage them in education and keep them interested in school, and aiming for the top levels of achievement.

"I'll have a talk to my colleague the Minister of Education to see what we can do to meet these expectations.

"But it is also important for whanau and communities to ask their schools to teach New Zealand history.

"I believe that if we do not know our history, we will struggle to succeed as people, and as a nation. In fact, this was the theme of my maiden speech when I entered Parliament in 2005," said Dr Sharples.


Extracts from Dr Sharples' Maiden Speech, 16 November 2005.

"Why do we accept the world's history and not our own?

"The Spanish Inquisition, the French Revolution, the Battle of Waterloo, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates-we know about all those things; we know about those people.

"So what of Toi Kairākau, of Rauru? What of my history, my tangata whenua-ness, my 1,000 missing years?

"Toi Kairākau crossed the Pacific and came to New Zealand. At the same time, Eric the Red was expelled from Iceland and voyaged to Greenland.

"Toi Kairākau is my ancestor; he still lives, in me. His history and genealogy is my history and genealogy, my bonding to these islands of Aotearoa.

"I believe that the future of New Zealand is deeply intertwined with the future of Māoridom, and is, in the eyes of the global community, uniquely intertwined with the idea of this nation.

"In a world increasingly homogenised by global commerce, migration, communications, travel, and trade, Māoridom provides an enduring point of difference that other cultures envy - a difference we must preserve.

"For this nation to thrive economically, culturally, and with a sense of social justice, Māori must be able to play a full role in all parts of society ..."